A nonconformist is an English Protestant of any non-Anglican denomination, chiefly advocating religious liberty.
The Act of Uniformity (1662) required episcopal ordination for all ministers. As a result, nearly 2,000 clergymen left the established church. The Test and Corporation Acts, which lasted until 1828, excluded all nonconformists from holding civil or military office. They were also prevented from being awarded degrees by the universities of Cambridge and Oxford. The term dissenter came into use, particularly after the Toleration Act (1689), which exempted nonconformists who had taken the oaths of allegiance and supremacy from penalties for nonattendance at the services of the Church of England.
Nowadays, churches independent of the Anglican Church in England or the Presbyterian Church in Scotland are often called Free Churches.